On September 16, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) hosted a workshop on the factors that may contribute to the effect disclosures have on consumer behavior. The workshop, “Putting Disclosures to the Test,” included speakers from a wide range of disciplines and industries, who remarked on aspects of disclosure such as consumer cognition, recognition, and comprehension, methodologies for measuring disclosure effectiveness, the impact of disclosures on consumer decision-making, and disclosure design.

In her introductory remarks, Lorrie Cranor, Chief Technologist at the FTC, espoused the benefits to privacy disclosures of studying research in other areas. Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the FTC, then opened the workshop with remarks on issues that are important to the FTC. The FTC’s primary task, she stated, is to ensure consumers have access to truthful and accurate information, to enable them to make decisions in the marketplace. Their focus, with respect to disclosure of information, is on the effect of disclosure on consumer welfare. They consider some disclosures necessary to prevent deception in advertising, or to communicate the risks of products, or choices consumers may have. With respect to privacy, the FTC encourages companies to disclose their data practices, so consumers have greater control over how their data is used. They require disclosures to be clear and conspicuous, so consumers can understand them and make informed decisions.
Continue Reading FTC Hosts “Putting Disclosures to the Test” Workshop

As we previously reported, Covington was selected from thousands of applicants to host a Privacy by Design bootcamp and workshop during last week’s South by Southwest (“SXSW”) Interactive festival, which featured five days of compelling presentations and panels from industry leaders in emerging technology.  SXSW designs workshops in particular to provide in-depth, hands-on education taught by innovative leaders.  To close out our coverage of SXSW, below is a workshop recap for those who couldn’t make it to Austin this year.

OVERVIEW

With the premise that businesses are eager to build privacy considerations into all phases of their activities in this new era of “big data,” our Privacy By Design Bootcamp provided a step-by-step guide to develop and integrate Privacy by Design (“PbD”) into any organization.  The workshop was well-attended, with audience members representing a diversity of sectors, including tech, financial, health, data, security, and academia, allowing for informative discussion spanning several industries.  The workshop started with the history of PbD and then presented examples of real-world PbD, including basic elements of an effective program.  We also walked through specific steps to initiate a successful PbD program, including implementing policies and procedures and examining the data lifecycle.  The outline below addresses some key topics from our Privacy by Design workshop.  If you’re interested in learning more, please contact PbD Bootcamp leaders Libbie Canter and Meena Harris.
Continue Reading Recap of Covington’s Privacy By Design Workshop

As the FTC continues to explore the Internet of Things (“IoT”) and IoT devices, today the agency announced that it will host a workshop in November on the topic of cross-device tracking.  Recognizing that today’s typical consumer daily uses a variety of connected devices while simultaneously interacting with numerous platforms, software applications, service providers, and

It’s shaping up to be a big data weekend, for those of us who try to find some interesting weekend reading away from the crush of the day-to-day schedule.  If you’re thinking about Monday’s FTC workshop on the impact of big-data analytics on vulnerable communities, a bit of weekend reading about the intersection between technology

As we have previously reported, in less than two weeks the FTC will host its anticipated workshop on big data and discrimination.  Today the FTC announced a full agenda and panelists for the September 15th event, “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” which will take place in Washington, D.C., at the Constitution Center.  The workshop is open to the public, and registration begins at 8 a.m.  The following provides a full schedule of speakers and panels.
Continue Reading Schedule of Panelists for FTC’s Upcoming Big Data & Discrimination Workshop

Last Friday, the FTC announced an agenda for its upcoming workshop, “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” which will take place on Monday, Sept. 15, starting at 8:00 a.m.  As we’ve previously reported, the workshop will build on recent efforts by the FTC and other government agencies to understand how new technologies affect the economy, government, and society, and the implications on individual privacy.  In particular, while there has been much recognition for the value of big data in revolutionizing consumer services and generally enabling “non‐obvious, unexpectedly powerful uses” of information, there has been parallel focus on the extent to which practices and outcomes facilitated by big-data analytics could have discriminatory effects on protected communities.

The workshop will explore the use of big data and its impact on consumers, including low-income and underserved consumers, and will host the following panel discussions:

  • Assessing the Current Environment.  Examine current uses of big data in various contexts and how these uses impact consumers.
  • What’s on the Horizon with Big Data?  Explore potential uses of big data and possible benefits and harms for particular populations of consumers.
  • Surveying the Legal Landscape.  Review anti-discrimination and consumer-protection laws and discuss how they may apply to the use of big data, and whether there may be gaps in the law.
  • Mapping the Path Forward.  Consider best practices for the use of big data to protect consumers.

The FTC hopes that the workshop will build on the dialogue raised in its Spring Privacy Seminar Series held from February through May, which addressed mobile-device tracking, data brokers and predictive scoring, and consumer generated and controlled health data.  The workshop will convene academic experts, business representatives, industry leaders, and consumer advocates, and will be open to the general public. In advance of the workshop, the FTC has invited the public to file comments, reports, and original research on the proposed topics. The deadline to submit pre-workshop comments is August 15. Following the workshop on September 15, the comment period will remain open until October 15.

The workshop comes on the heels of the White House’s anticipated report on big data released in May, which outlined the administration’s priorities in protecting privacy and data security in an era of big data.  With an entire section dedicated to “Big Data and Discrimination,” the report warned that big data “could enable new forms of discrimination and predatory practices.”  Chiefly focusing on the use of information, the report showed concern about using data to discriminate against vulnerable groups.  Specifically, the report stated that “the ability to segment the population and to stratify consumer experiences so seamlessly as to be almost undetectable demands greater review, especially when it comes to the practice of differential pricing and other potentially discriminatory practices.” 
Continue Reading The FTC’s Agenda to Tackle Big Data and Discrimination

This morning, the FTC announced that it would host a public workshop in September entitled “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” in order to examine the increasing use of big-data analytics and its potential impact on low-income, diverse, and underserved American consumers.  The FTC noted that while predictive-analytic techniques produce tremendous benefits by enabling innovation in medicine, education, and transportation, and in improving product offerings, manufacturing processes, and tailored ads, there is concern that insights from big data also “may be used to categorize consumers in ways that may affect them unfairly, or even unlawfully.” 

The FTC gave examples of such practices that could limit certain populations of consumers’ access to higher quality products or services, including:  (1) rewarding frequent customers with better service or shorter wait times; (2) offering a discounted mortgage rate to a consumer who has a checking, savings, credit card, and retirement account with a competitor; (3) providing offers for “gold level” credit cards to high-income consumers while offering low-income consumers subprime credit cards; (4) circumventing the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act by assessing credit risk through unregulated “aggregate scoring models,” which are based on aggregate credit or demographic profiles of groups of consumers who shop at certain stores, rather than the credit characteristics of individual consumers.  Although these types of uses of big data may be thought to bring about convenience, efficiency, and economic opportunity for some, consumer advocates have urged businesses and regulators to ensure that such techniques be implemented to respect the values of equality and opportunity for all.

Continue Reading FTC to Examine Impact of “Big Data” on Low-Income and Underserved Communities

As part of the White House’s ongoing review of “big data” and its implications for privacy, the economy, and public policy, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (“OSTP”) has announced that it is requesting comments from the public on several key issues.

OSTP’s Request for Information asks commenters to consider the following questions:

  1. What are the public policy implications of the collection, storage, analysis, and use of big data?  For example, do the current U.S. policy framework and privacy proposals for protecting consumer privacy and government use of data adequately address issues raised by big data analytics?
  2. What types of uses of big data could measurably improve outcomes or productivity with further government action, funding, or research?  What types of uses of big data raise the most public policy concerns?  Are there specific sectors or types of uses that should receive more government and/or public attention?
  3. What technological trends or key technologies will affect the collection, storage, analysis and use of big data?  Are there particularly promising technologies or new practices for safeguarding privacy while enabling effective uses of big data?
  4. How should the policy frameworks or regulations for handling big data differ between the government and the private sector?  Please be specific as to the type of entity and type of use (e.g., law enforcement, government services, commercial, academic research, etc.).
  5. What issues are raised by the use of big data across jurisdictions, such as the adequacy of current international laws, regulations, or norms?

The deadline for responses is March 31.  The full Request for Information, including details on submitting responses, is available here.


Continue Reading White House Seeks Public Comment on Implications of Big Data